Chailee Steinlage has had a difficult home life, with a traumatic incident during eighth grade that resulted in her birth mother’s long-term incarceration.
Since she was little, Steinlage enjoyed school and saw it as a positive and safe place. But after her mother’s incarceration, she struggled with the dual emotions of love for her mother and anger for the situation she caused. Once her mother was imprisoned, Steinlage spent a couple of years bouncing between living situations. But that never stopped her, as she took a job starting in her 10th-grade year to support herself and worked long, late hours just to keep her dreams alive.
Despite all this hardship Steinlage is a great student and has maintained good attendance, grades and involvement at East Valley High. And despite working late shifts at her job, she would come to school every day with a big morning smile. She also loves playing softball and participating in a band, where she is a percussionist.
Steinlage also had the chance to be taken in by a great family thanks to her now-brother Cody. They have known each other since ninth grade and they have always had a goofy, brother-and-sister relationship.
“We loved her and treated her like a daughter way before we adopted her and we always felt like there was a piece missing to our family,” said her father, Matthew Steinlage. “Every time she came and sat on our dinner table she filled that hole, and every time she left that hole was empty.”
Her new family encouraged Chailee Steinlage to stop working for a while and just focus on being a teen. They gave her a car. After her father gave her a necklace, she came to school wearing it and exclaimed, “My dad gave me this! I have a dad now, and he wanted me to have something to remind me that he cares about me!”
“My mom (Jennifer Steinlage) and dad are one of the most welcoming people I have ever known,’’ Chailee Steinlage said. “My mom can relate to a lot of different things and help you overcome things. She sees all the potential in me.”
At the beginning of March, on Chailee’s 18th birthday, she was officially adopted by the Steinlages and took their last name. Chailee said she always wanted to live in a home with a mother and a father. She was also accepted into the Army National Guard and will ship out shortly after graduation.
“I could not be any more thankful to my family. And mom and dad are a lot like me,” she said. “And I’m glad to have the opportunity to learn more.”
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